Behind The Scenes

Command Center on ESPN2 brings fans deeper inside CFP games

Mock-up of this Saturday's telecast.
Mock-up of this Saturday’s College Football Semifinal Command Center on ESPN2.
A look at the matrix before the games are placed and are placed.
An earlier version of the Command Center concept from the mid-2000s.

Command Centers all around the country, in many industries, serve a main purpose – to centralize various facets into one, controlled area. For sports fans, ESPN’s Command Center will play the same role for the College Football Playoff Semifinals on December 31. The MultiCast’s alternate production on ESPN2 will take several aspects of the traditional telecast on ESPN and provide a multiscreen experience on one network.

The multiscreen view could include the main ESPN camera angle, the SkyCam view and isolated camera feeds of both head coaches at any given time. Enhanced statistics and real time drive charts supplement the game action.

Many college football fans will experience the production for the first time on Saturday; however, inside ESPN’s Bristol campus, the concept began in the mid-2000s.
“Even then, we wanted to give fans the options to watch our numerous camera angles and shots at one time – a notion that hadn’t been used in the industry too much at that time,” said senior coordinating producer Ed Placey. “When we first rolled out, we were calling it ‘U Choose’, portraying the idea that fans got to choose to watch an another angle rather than just the traditional telecast.”

Since that first version of the Command Center, ESPN has tinkered and improved the production.

“In the first few editions, including during a Longhorn Network production for a Texas bowl game, we had up to seven camera boxes on the screen at one time,” Placey said. “Additionally, the production was heavy on instant replays. As TV production, we people loved it; but we found it was a bit overwhelming for the average viewer — too much of a sensory overload.”

When ESPN announced their first MegaCast for the national championship telecast in 2014, the newest version of the Command Center started to take shape and work on it has continued over the last few years. The results will be on display Saturday.

“We now have dedicated camera shots for this production – isolation on the coaches and SkyCam as examples – and then we have added live stats as well,” Placey said.

Command Center has been offered on a number of games throughout this season on ESPN3, with the fan reaction being very position.

“In the end, we believe we have come up with a great viewing option,” said Placey.

Prior examples of the Command Center experience from earlier this season on ESPN3.
Prior examples fans’ enjoyment of of the Command Center experience from earlier this season on ESPN3.
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